County sheriff deputies awarded hazard pay

July 24, 2020 chris
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Photo courtesy of Etowah County Sheriff

By Emma Kirkemier, Staff Correspondent

The Etowah County Commission approved the sheriff’s request for hazard duty pay for deputies at its July 21 meeting.

Commissioners approved a resolution “To approve the request of Sheriff Jonathan Horton (pictured at right)for hazard duty pay to the deputies, including both road and detention deputies, certified officers, dispatchers and DEU,” said Chief Administrative Officer Shane Ellison.

Hazard pay will be $1,000 for full-time deputies and $500 for part-time deputies. Money received may be prorated by experience, and it will be taxable, said Chief Financial Officer Kevin Dollar.

According to Dollar’s report, about $94,000 of the total cost, which he later stated totaled a maximum of $197,527.38, should be reimbursable under the CAREs Act, but the remainder will need to be paid for between commission and sheriff’s office funds.

Dollar initially split the cost for hazard pay for the entire sheriff’s office staff into two components: $94,000, reimbursable and covering 88 employees and $112,000, likely not reimbursable and covering the other 102 employees. The detention deputies employed at the Etowah County jail were a part of the latter group.

Whether or not detention deputies could receive the same hazard pay as road deputies was a subject of debate. While detention deputies are considered essential employees in the state of Alabama, the question of whether they qualify for reimbursement of hazardous duty pay in the eyes of state funding remains unanswered.

“Every individual that works for me deserves the money,” said Horton (pictured above). “What I’m saying is, make an investment in the people across the road that work and deserve this. If there’s a way I can pay it back without it costing them something else, then I’ll do it.”

Commissioners ultimately decided to pass a resolution approving hazard pay for the covered 88 employees and the detention deputes.

“We will be able to ask for reimbursement for the salaries for deputies that are out in the field, and that should … be able to offset some of these costs that are not reimbursable,” said Ellison.

In other business, the commission finalized a refinance with Frazer Lanier, paying off the county’s 2014 warrants, that yielded almost $300,000 in cash to be put toward county projects, primarily in the road department.

Gadsden/Etowah County Emergency Management Agency Director Deborah Gaither asked the commission for funding towards two projects: an ambulance bus to be used for COVID-19 testing and, later, vaccine administration; and care kits for senior citizens, “to equip them better so that they can try to take care of themselves better.”

The commission agreed to move forward in assisting with her request.